The chance to read at any time of the day
Many remote rural communities in The Gambia have little or no access to electricity. People often have to rely on battery-powered lights, candles or fires after the sun has gone down but these are expensive and candles often cause fires in homes. In these communities, families rarely have books at home as few can afford them. With little light to study by and only a few outdated books in school, children can struggle to make the most of their education.
Books that you have helped to send are being used by our partner Switched On-Gambia, a charity providing solar-powered lights in schools, in combination with solar lamps to give school children the chance to work towards a brighter future. Our books are now filling the shelves of school libraries which formerly had only a small selection of old books, giving children the chance to read for pleasure and to learn, whatever the time of day. Kevin and Rosie from Switched On-Gambia told us about Fatoumata and Amadou, two pupils benefitting from the project:
Fatoumata and Amadou, two 12 year-old friends, live in Faraba community in the Central River Region of The Gambia, 30 minutes walk from their school Faraba Lower Basic. They are in grade 5 and have a keen interest in reading, especially the interesting story books provided by Book Aid International.
In a community with no electricity, sunlight is precious and after school, jobs such as cleaning, looking after younger siblings and caring for livestock take priority. This leaves little if any daylight for homework and reading. This means that Amadou and Fatoumata are often forced to rush their homework in the mornings once the sun has risen before school begins.
Along with the other students at their school, Fatoumata and Amadou now have brand new books to enjoy in school or borrow to read at home. They also have the opportunity to rent a solar powered light for just five Dalasi per week, the same price as a single candle. Fatoumata knows several families whose houses have burnt down due to fires caused by candles. The lamps provided by Switched On-Gambia are not only affordable but durable and completely safe. Thanks to the new books and lamps, Fatoumata and Amadou can now read and study at home long after the sun has gone down.
In the evening, Fatoumata and Amadou attend group reading sessions with school friends in their compound. With books provided by Book Aid International borrowed from their school libraries, the children share the light of the lamp of whoever has rented one for the week to read. By using the lamps together, more children have the opportunity to progress in their school work and reading.
When I read, I see things I can never see.
Many children like Fatoumata and Amadou enjoy reading at every opportunity, both in school and at home. Living in an isolated community means their knowledge is restricted but their teacher has noticed that the books have inspired them to ask questions about things they have not yet been exposed to. He says that encountering new things in books encourages his pupils to want to learn more about the world. They voice their questions in class and it helps the whole class to learn as the teacher answers their questions and fills gaps in their knowledge.
Amadou’s favourite book is Ice in the Jungle about a polar bear who moves to the jungle and his life completely changes. Amadou aspires to be a policeman when he leaves school and says:
I will need to be able to read ID cards and lots of other things to do my job well.
For Fatoumata, reading is not only important for improving her own skills;
It is important to know how to read, so you can help your children with their school work.
With parents who cannot read, Fatoumata is growing up without the luxury of extra help at home. Fatoumata’s favourite book is, The Greedy Dog which represents the importance of sharing and not being greedy. When she is older, she would like to become a teacher and help other children to learn to read.